A short drive from Missouri Western’s campus reveals the charming small town of Cosby, Missouri. With a population of 213, it may seem surprising that there is a hidden gem sitting right off the main street. Gina’s Café & Catering, owned by MWSU alumn Regina Calderwood, has attracted locals from surrounding areas for over a decade.
Calderwood spent her entire childhood in Cosby before attending Missouri Western for a nursing degree. After graduation, she yearned for a new environment, but her roots ultimately brought her back to home soil.
“I spent my 20’s trying to get away from here and spent my 30’s just trying to come home,” said Calderwood. “My parents still live here and own a little farm,” she added.
When Calderwood eventually moved back to Cosby, she realized that there had always been a piece missing.
“Our town used to be a bustling little place. It had two banks. It had a school. It was a well-established community,” Calderwood said, “But you know, in the history of our town, the one thing it never really had was a restaurant.” she explained.
The logistics of opening a restaurant can seem insurmountable, especially for a small business owner. Calderwood jumped headfirst into the food industry, embracing every challenge along the way.
“I look back at it now, and I was insane to think I could start a restaurant, especially in a town of just 124 people. I had never worked in a restaurant. I had never been a waitress. All I knew was that I could cook, and people liked my food,” Calderwood reminisced.
Although the menu’s specifics vary upon the season, Gina’s Café is best known for its fried chicken, cakes, and pies.
“My Dad’s all-time favorite meal is fried chicken, so I learned at a young age how to perfect the dish,” Calderwood said. “We have a carrot cake that I make. It’s five layers and weighs 22 pounds by the time it’s finished.”
When it comes to desserts at Gina’s Café, the early bird gets the pie.
“When the strawberry pie is in season, the people love it, and it sells out fast. When you come to eat, you better put your dessert order in right away; otherwise, you’re going to get envy watching the other tables,” Calderwood warns.
In Cosby, Monday nights have become associated with two things: Football and Gina’s Café.
“Monday nights are my service to the community. It’s a showroom for my food so that people can utilize me for catering and other food needs,” Calderwood said. “I chose Monday nights because most restaurants are closed on Mondays, so I’m competing with less,” she added.
Everything changed for Calderwood when the COVID-19 pandemic put the country on lockdown.
“COVID decimated my sales. People no longer needed catering, so I lost 85 percent of my total income,” Calderwood explained. “I had to pivot, so I immediately started preparing meal kits. All you have to do is take it home and bake it. It provides meals for people who may not have the time to cook. There’s no better feeling than knowing what you’re having for dinner.”
The meal kits have provided an efficient solution during rough times, and Calderwood believes they will be a mainstay looking forward.
“The meal kits are great for us. It’s what’s paying our bills. We’re not thriving yet. We’re still just surviving. I would like to develop them into an actual food line where people can pick them up at the grocery store, and they’re ready to go,” Calderwood said.
Monday nights at Gina’s Café will make their highly anticipated return on May 3. For locals, this event will mark a massive step towards the return to normalcy.
“When the doors are open, and people are finally able to come in, it will be crazy for some time. People are chomping at the bit to get back in here,” Calderwood said.
If you would like to learn more or are interested in catering a special event, you can visit Ginascafe.net for further information.